Kathleen Ridder played an important role in promoting the leadership of women in all aspects of public life in Minnesota, from athletics to the law. Ridder died Monday in Florida at the age of 94. Her legacy and generosity will live on in Minnesota, as well as at Mitchell Hamline.
Ridder served on the board of trustees at Mitchell Hamline predecessor school William Mitchell College of Law and also established the Kathleen Ridder Scholarship.
An obituary in the Star Tribune notes that Ridder lived a “rags to riches” story. After her father, a stockbroker, lost everything during the Great Depression, her mother supported the family by working in a dress shop. Ridder moved to Minnesota in 1943 with her husband, Robert, whose family founded the Knight-Ridder media company.
The Star Tribune notes that Ridder spent six decades working to support many causes.
“A devout Catholic as well as a Republican, Kathleen Ridder embraced progressive causes from civil rights to the anti-Vietnam War movement. She supported legalized abortion and gay rights, and marched in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment at the 1980 Republican National Convention, when it was dropped from the platform.”
Ridder was well-known for her support of women’s athletics at the University of Minnesota. She led the push to build one of the first women’s hockey arenas in the country. The U of M’s Ridder Arena bears her family’s name.
Her son Robert Ridder Jr. told the Pioneer Press that his mother, who was an accomplished athlete herself, saw her support of women’s athletics as just one way to help women succeed.
“She was very passionate about seeing women excel,” Robert Ridder Jr. said. “It wasn’t that sports was so important, but it was a way to help these young ladies succeed in the business world.”
Ridder was a friend and supporter of Rosalie Wahl ’67 (WMCL), the first woman to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Ridder helped fund the publication of a book on Wahl, “Her Honor,” written by Lori Sturdevant. Ridder also supported the production of a Twin Cities Public Television documentary on Wahl’s life called “Girl from Birch Creek.”
In 2014, Ridder reflected on the life of Wahl, calling her “the icon of the women’s movement in the state of Minnesota in the 20th century.”
Kathleen Ridder’s family is planning a private memorial service in her honor and requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Planned Parenthood or the League of Women Voters.